Wednesday, May 28, 2014

I remember. Do you?

I pity youngsters. Who will tell them the real story of what their parents and grandparents did? We're losing our history, even the history that occurred within living memory, because the tales are being told in an utterly skewed fashion by people with axes to grind.

Case in point: Randall Balmer's recent piece in Poltico, in which he outlines what he considers the real origin of the religious right. His argument makes no sense.

Balmer pooh-poohs the contention that the religious right grew in opposition to the 1973 Roe-v-Wade ruling on abortion. He cites the commentary in mainstream religious publications of the time, which either cautiously approved that ruling or remained silent.

The real impetus, he argues, was school desegregation -- specifically, the court ruling which decreed that segregated schools could not receive tax exempt status.

What the fuh?

Balmer gives us no evidence that this ruling had any connection whatsoever to the rapid growth of fundamentalism in the 1970s.

The religious right gained power through numbers, pure and simple. Mainstream denominations declined while membership swelled in churches offering a more primal type of Christianity. The successful churches were evangelical, pentecostal, highly emotional, non-rational, paranoid, reactionary, almost medieval in their theology and embrace of supernaturalism. In short: The rise of the religious right's political power grew out of the popularity of fundamentalism.

True, there were Baptist leaders who, as late as 1973, refused to attack Roe-v-Wade. These people were still trying to play the mainstream game. When Baptists realized that this game was unwinnable, they switched to a more aggressive, more barbaric, more crowd-pleasing form of fundamentalism.

School desegregation...? I fail to see how school desegregation had anything to do with this social change. Balmer has given us a classic "post hoc ergo propter hoc" argument.

So why did fundamentalism rise in the 1970s? I blame hippies. (And if that sounds like something Sheldon Cooper would say, apologies.)

Fundamentalism was both an outgrowth of and a reaction to the hippie movement.

Outgrowth: The flower children disdained reason and plugged directly into the Id. So do the more primeval forms of religion.

Consider the lyrics to one of the best-known songs by the Beatles: "Turn off your mind, relax and float down stream/It is not dying, it is not dying/Lay down all thoughts, surrender to the void/It is shining, it is shining." It's easy to see the chain which links that sentiment to the teachings of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson -- although I'm sure that Paul and Ringo (and their many fans) would rather not acknowledge the connection. Fundamentalist preachers promised to turn off your mind. They assured you that you would not die. Many who attended evangelical services raised their palms to the heavens and entered a trance state -- in other words, they surrendered to the void.

The classic (male) hippie look -- long hair, beard, scruffy clothing -- was, in essence, the Jesus look. Cult leaders like Manson and Robert DeGrimston used that resemblance to their advantage. Even after the cults of the late 1960s were exposed as fraudulent and dangerous, the psychological needs that gave rise to those cults remained. The Jesus movement -- which began as a subculture within hippie-dom -- grew out of those needs.

Reaction: A lot of people within and without the youth movement of the 1960s and early 1970s simply got scared. Rebellious young people tried to create their own societies, their own rules, but they proved thoroughly inept at governing themselves.

In some hippie communities, young women were told that it was impolite to refuse sex to anyone who asked, a stricture that led to objectification, dissociation and resentment. Drug use inevitably led to drug abuse, to addiction and despair. A drug-based economy is a criminal economy. People tire of living the outlaw life, even if they manage to avoid the cops.

If you're young, ask your elders about those days. There are a million stories about how the hippie movement soured during during the 1969-71 period.

When young people discovered the scariness of a structure-free life, when they understood that they were were incapable of making their own rules, when they reached their greatest point of psychological vulnerability, the fundies were waiting for them: "You want rules? We got 'em. We got plenty."

Having lost the habit of rational thought, this generation gravitated toward leaders who said: "Don't worry. I can do the thinking for you."

As the 70s came to a close, those very leaders gathered in an auditorium in which Ronald Reagan announced that he often read the Bible for guidance -- "The Old Testament AND the New!" (For some goofy reason, Reagan always felt obliged to specify that he thought both testaments were spiffy.) This statement was greeted with wild applause. Animalistic applause. The scene was downright pagan; the people in that room might as well have been wearing deer skins and antlered helmets.

The youth of the 1960s learned one important lesson from the Vietnam war and the Warren Commission: Don't trust the government. Not many years later, the fundamentalists and the Reaganites sounded that same theme, though for very different reasons: Don't trust the government.

And that's how the religious right was born, Charlie Brown.
I look a lot like Jesus. The long hair. The beard. I'm even blonde. Just like Jesus! Nasserite. Like Samson.

I'm more into raging against the dying of the light, or the "coward dies a thousand deaths" approach, though.

I'm rational, though. I assert my conscious mind over the id. The Ego, that is. I practice by fasting, forcing myself into cold water, making myself write with my left hand, and other things that assert the influence of the Ego over the Id. To form the habit.

The CIA had too much influence on the hippes. LSD. Gloria Steinem. Vito Paulekas. Redirected the struggle for politcal and economic equality into more trendy and ultimately less risky (for the elite) directions. Racial equality, yes. Peace, maybe. Redistribution, no.

Interesting theory. It would certainly explain why Northern California, and especially San Francisco, is such a bastion of fundamentalism, while the South and Appalachia, where there weren't a whole lot of hippies, are known for free-thinking spirituality. Hippies were pretty anti-authoritarian, as I recall, which would explain why they'd gravitate to a deeply authoritarian culture.
Just kidding. I'm sure some hippies collapsed into fundamentalism, but I think most hippies contributed to the rise of alternative religion and spirituality in the US. If anything, I suspect the rise of fundamentalism was partly a reaction against the free-thinking of the Sixties.
The rise of the religious right was much more a reaction to than outgrowth of the hippies, I think. There just weren't that many of us, for one thing. (We were particularly visible, though, because of our colorful clothing!) And I don't see John's spacey lyrics about meditation as having driven many otherwise rational non-hippies into the arms of charismatic leaders.

As to the reaction part, yes. But it was because the hippies stood as a symbol for non-conformity, and, however wrongly, for free love. (The hippies were no better at free love than anyone else and generally settled into serial monogamy like most of the rest of the population, but they were always associated with free love, mostly because of naked people at Woodstock.) Non-conformity in general, and the idea of free love in particular, scared a lot of people.

But it was a reaction, too, to feminism and rationalism.

*Feminism, because it was scary, too. Deep down in your primitive guts scary. What will become of me without traditional gender roles?

*Rationalism, because we're wired for mystical experience (and/or interpretation) more than we are for logical argumentation or the scientific method. It's baked into the cake. It's not that the Beatles or the hippies created a desire for the mysterious and irrational, it's that Hippiedom and Fundamentalism have this root in common.

Evangelical Christianity is a re-embrace of conformity, a re-embrace of traditional gender roles, and a re-embrace of the irrational all at once. Therein lies its power.
History tells us that religious fundamentalism has been with us since the beginning of time. Father Coughlin, Sabbatai Tzvi, The Great Awakening and on and on. I don't think fundamentalism is greater or lesser now than in the past. The only difference is that certain plutocrats have decided to pour billions into the movement so as to use it to enrich themselves.
I tend to agree with Morgan.
If you look at those videos of Mario Savio standing on the university steps, saying "when the operation of the machine becomes so odius - you must throw your body against the gears and bring the machine to a halt" - that scared the living shit out of the "establishment". They had a real revolution on their hands. And not just with a bunch of Cliven Bundy types. These kids were EDUCATED. They were the next generation of lawyers and bussiness people.
The movement was destabilized. Everyone knows that the government infiltrated every aspect of the movement to break it apart.
But you are right in this way; after the spectre of "the evil hippie" appeared, religion was cynically used as an alternative, and the Reagan-right captured it as part of the long-held Southern Strategy.
Having grown up agnostic in the Bible Belt, I won't dispute your analysis. I very well remember the rise of so-called "Christian schools" as a reaction to desegregation in my then neck of the woods in the 1960s.

It does strike me as strange, though, that the most thoroughly charismatic of the evangelical denominations, the Pentecostals, were integrated from their founding (in Los Angeles, of all places) in the early 1900s.
The motivation for fundamentalism is fear. Generally the fear of the unknown and change. Religious revival movements usually appear when their is social upheaval. Fundamentalism provides security. Fundamentalists tell people what to think, the idea of having to make one's own decisions can be scary. The difference between O'Reilly and Chris Hayes is that O'Reilly wants to end the discussion, Hayes wants to move it forward. For the Religious Right, the idea of having to think for oneself is terrifying.
Those lyrics by John Lennon refer to eastern meditation and mysticism, which was big with the hippies (and the Beatles, in particular). So what you seem to be saying is that the Christian fundamentalists decided to utilize eastern religious techniques in their own religion? If so, there would be some nice irony in that.

However, if you really dig into the origins of the hippy movement, I think it was a psyop from the start. Anti-war protesters were gaining momentum before the hippies came along (along with anti-nuke protesters as well). The hippies took credibility away from the antiwar movement, which I think caused the war to carry on until the powers that be were done with it.

Of course, having grown up mostly in the late 70's and 80's, I don't have first hand information. I do know that in the beginning of the 90's, I was attracted to hippies of that time precisely because they were so rational and well informed and offered an alternative to the crushing conformity of modern life in America at the time.

As Clark noted, humans are wired for spirituality anyway, not logic. So I think fundamentalism is something that has always existed and will always least until we start breeding humans that are wired differently (and maybe we already do.....they are called psychopaths and sociopaths and they are good at acquiring power and influence, but especially at using the spiritual wiring of the majority as a control mechanism).
"Balmer gives us no evidence that this ruling had any connection whatsoever to the rapid growth of fundamentalism in the 1970s. "

Did you read past the first page because it seems like he gave a reasonably compelling timeline of events bolstered by personal quotes.

Ironclad? no. But it definitely is some evidence.

" History tells us that religious fundamentalism has been with us since the beginning of time. Father Coughlin, Sabbatai Tzvi, The Great Awakening and on and on. I don't think fundamentalism is greater or lesser now than in the past. The only difference is that certain plutocrats have decided to pour billions into the movement so as to use it to enrich themselves."
posted by Blogger joseph : 12:13 PM

I recently did a study to refresh my memory about the development of various religions and denominations that came to the fore during the past 200+ years; and while I was at it I did another review of Mark Twain's views on religions. I feel qualified to speak on behalf of MT, in as much that we both agree with your comment. ;) j
Don't forget Anita Bryant and her fight against gay rights in Dade County Florida back in 1977. She brought that issue to the fundamentalist table. Just another log on the fire.

Also, the 70s were when the baby boomers left en-masse the main stream Protestant denominations. The fundamentalists filled the void.
"The CIA had too much influence on the hippies." Mr. Morgan has his finger on the main wire. Anyone who doubts that should read some of Dave McGowan's history of the Laurel Canyon series. The counterculture of the sixties was a huge experiment sponsored by government agencies. Where did all those cheap high quality psychedelics suddenly come from? From the same place that cheap crack cocaine came from in the 80s and the place where cheap heroin is currently coming from to flood cities all over the world?
Lots of people died or lost their minds as a result of the experiment, but that's just the cost of doing business. When it came time to wind it down, fundamentalist Christianity was offered as an anodyne. In the early 70s good psychedelics suddenly dried up like someone had closed a spigot. That was when I had trippy doper friends make the transition from acid to speaking in tongues without missing a beat. I wonder how many fundamentalist movements/ministers were funded by black money, some perhaps to this present day. Control is the goal, always.
And for those who were unable to buy into fundamentalism, a 6000 year old universe, and people riding around on dinosaurs, several versions of crackpot New Age religions were trotted out for your edification. Research the "miraculous" origins of the Urantia Book (an early experiment), the Course In Miracles (created by a CIA psychologist and his assistant), and several other alternatives to mind-numbing versions of Christianity.
Anon 1:49 -- I did read on, but I still see no connection between segregation and the rise of what we may call "primal" Christianity.

In my view -- and I was keeping an eye on this stuff at the time -- the desegregation controversy and the rise of fundamentalism were two separate tracks.

Now, I confess that mine is (or was) a California-centric viewpoint. People forget southern California was perhaps the epicenter of the "Jesus freak" sub-subculture, and was later a hotbed of evangelicalism. People also forget that my former state was also a rather more conservative place than it is generally presumed to be today. It was Reaganland.

small-j: Of course you are correct to state that fundamentalism has been with us for centuries. But at the time of fundamentalism's rise in the early 70s, commenters routinely told us not to worry because America is prone to religious revivals. "These things come and go," we were told. There was a huge revival movement around the time Joseph Smith invented Mormonism. There was another one in the 1920s. This was just the latest.

The odd thing about the revival of the 1970s is that it defied all of the predictions about its life cycle. The thing just kept growing and growing -- for the next four decades. Only recently has there been a significant backlash.

Perhaps I'm wrong, but I always saw fundamentalism as a kind of outgrowth of the immediately preceding attacks on reason and intellect.

It is true that hippies were fewer in number than the media led many to believe. But aspects of hippie-ness pervaded youth culture throughout the country. It wasn't just the flower children in the Haight who listened to the Beatles. And they certainly weren't the only ones doing drugs.

All sorts of cultural voices at that time were telling us to mistrust anything having to do with science and reason. Kids were told repeatedly to operate on the level of instinct and sensation. Go with your feelings. Feelings were all-important.

Fertile grounds, I say, for anyone sowing the seeds of Fundamentalism.

cracker: I hope you are not implying that spooks had anything to do with the Book of Urantia. (Which I did once try to read. Didn't get far.) Jacques Vallee identified the author as William Sadler. Later, Martin Gardner published a book which made the same claim but did not credit Vallee, who got there first. That bit of bad sportsmanship really ticked me off. I decided never to read Gardner again, even though I used to enjoy hiss Dr Matrix stories.
Looking back it seems that everyone was wearing bell bottoms but there were always the straights. They just remained low key and worked towards their own futures. American society was very divided at the time, and that requires two opposing halves. Nixon did win two elections.

There have always been fundamentalists. Remember that America was colonized by religious ideologues who had to leave Europe because nobody there would put up with their shit. In the fifties and sixties, fundamentalist Christians kept more to themselves and weren’t much of a political force. Render unto Caesar, that which is Caesar’s, and all that. They lived their own world. Then Jimmy Carter ran for office and talked openly about his faith. And so the Christian fundamentalists came out to vote for Carter, and he won the election.

After the Watergate fiasco, the Republicans recouped and planned their comeback. They saw how Carter had won the evangelical vote and weren’t about to let this happen again. A concerted effort was made to bring fundamentalist Christians into the Republican fold. Right leaning individuals pushed hard to obtain leadership positions in protestant churches. The new church leadership was more politically outspoken. This wasn’t just happenchance. It was an organized political operation. It also would seem to be the perfect opportunity for The Company to ply its skill set. A coup of sorts.

“In a 1987 C-SPAN broadcast, Father Robert Drinan stated that in 1979, the Republican Party made a deal to modify their platform in order to gain the financial and logistical support of The Religious Right.” The Real Frank Zappa Book, p 298.

Hey, they cut a deal with the Iranians, why not with the fundies? And so evangelical Christians became a subset of the party, the new Republican base. I don’t have the source, but once read of the meeting where a search was made to find The wedge issue of wedge issues to serve the party’s interests. Ideas were bantered about with no great success. Then the issue of abortion was proffered. Bingo! And so abortion became the rallying cry. This didn’t just happen. It was a calculated political decision. And so the party salesmen in the churches sold the issue to the base.

So here we are today, more divided than ever. Seemingly on the verge of civil war. And one side is now armed to the teeth. We’re bitterly divided and distracted over social issues. While financiers and war profiteers loot the country blind.

Balmer claims to have found the precise catalyst that started the religious right reaction and I agree he's mostly wrong. But as a bonafide one-time hippie (Boston tribe), I think you're also mistaken about any significant drift of the movement into fundamentalism. A few years later, during the Watergate-Bicentennial era, I became part of the alternative paper scene. The emergent religious right was a topic we wanna-be Woodward, poseur gonzo journalists often debated over beers and crappy pot.

We all read several papers and other alt-weeklies. We caught the network radio news at the top of the hour and those of us that had TVs tried to watch all evening news broadcasts. We were horrified. There was wayyyy too much coverage of the Boston school busing protests, which elevated it into a dramatic racial gunfight with religious overtones (I strongly remember heavy coverage of a "pray-in" led by the horrible Louise Day Hicks). We agreed then that the slant promoted the protester's view that whites were being VICTIMIZED. I cannot recall any upset at all in that era over segregationist school tax-exempt status.

At the same time, I remember hearing an emphatic argument that there was a shift underway in the message heard in fundamentalist radio. I recall it was Jerry Falwell's "Old-Time Gospel Hour," which enjoyed enormous popularity, that began preaching about pretribulation rapture--that the end of the world is gonna happen at any moment but if you really, really, are a true believer you will beat the traffic jam and fly up into heaven in your body without dying or pain. This crystallized in the "Left Behind" novels a couple of decades later of course, but the big message was evangelical christianity was soft and fluffy and soothed your fearful hindbrain.

I agree with Meister Joseph who "always saw fundamentalism as a kind of outgrowth of the immediately preceding attacks on reason and intellect" but I witnessed there were also strong roots in the perceptions of white victimization and entitlement along with calculated manipulations by Weyrich and others, such as Balmer suggests. It was a complex time. An ugly time.

Didn't mean to get reckless with facts, Joseph. Yes, the Urantia Book came from a Dr. William Sadler and another man named Kellogg, beginning in the 20s, but the book allegedly had a "miraculous" origin in that it was supposed to be channeled through Kellogg. It is said to be a "composite presentation by many beings", and I presume some of them were disembodied.
I believe it was a prototype for The Course in Miracles which began to be assembled in the 1960s
also in a miraculous manner because this one was channeled from (wait for it) Jesus Christ! Look up the history of Dr. William Thetford and his assistant, Helen Shucman. The doc was a spooked-up expert in mind control techniques; I think the assistant was just used. But one man's crackpot religion is another man's basic belief system.
I can hardly wait to see what we get next.
I remember The End of the Sixties well. Between Altamont, Manson, and Nixon, it all seemed to end in a matter of weeks. The back-to-the-land types fled out of the junkie-infested cities into the countryside, while the techno-hippies were more like Steve Jobs, and into SF and space travel. I was in the latter group; the combination of rural poverty and power-tripping cult leaders appalled me.

But for both groups, the sheer mass of government disinformation about the triple assassinations, the endless and pointless war (which still continues in many ways), and absurdity and brutality of the anti-marijuana campaign left its mark on anyone that lived through this time.

You would have to be amazingly gullible to fall for the ludicrous medieval fantasies of the fundamentalists; my personal impression was their pitch was aimed at the total burnouts who couldn't think straight anymore, as well as low-information folks from rural areas and the South. Since many of these people were raised in a culture where critical thinking was punished severely (sometime physically), the fundamentalists and the GOP naturally targeted them.

Marketing learned a lot from the commercialization and mainstreaming of rock music. It all came down to demographics; aim your pitch at the beliefs and tribal identity of the target market, and you've got it made. That process took about five years, but capitalism evolved into a higher-speed system with a knack for segmenting new market sectors.

The GOP, since they've always been closer to Madison Avenue than the Democrats, was very quick to pick up on the market-segmentation idea, going back to Nixon's Silent Majority, and maturing into AM hate radio and FoxNews. They know their demographic very, very well.

The right-wing use of "sheeple" is very revealing, since that's exactly what the GOP operation has been doing since Nixon, separating out the low-information, fearful, and rural demographic from the rest of the country, and flattering them with the title of "Real Americans".
Seamus Coogan: "Allen Dulles was also fascinated by religion, and throughout his time in intelligence he infiltrated all manner of religious institutions and organisations (as noted here)."
Kudos for the panels from Zap! comix. I kept a sheaf of them from my wayward teen years in the 1970s, when they helped warp my mind into the anti-Establishment sceptical (as it's spelt Down Here) cesspool it remains today. If more people read R. Crumb and "The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers" then fewer people would vote for the idiotological heirs of Saint Ronnie of Alzheim. Duhmerikkka needs more funny, subversive and TRUE literature like that these days. Actually, it's out there, but the mediuniverse is so fragmentedly diverse that there are few ways to get a single message across to a critical mass of people. Unless it could be folded into something like "Angry Birds" or "Candy Crush."
Bukko, I'm always happy to hear from a Crumb fan. But those panels came from an '80s publication called Weirdo, not Zap.

In my view, Crumb -- though always a major talent -- became an even better draftsman in the 1980s, and he continued to improve from there. Yet everyone remains focused on the work done in the 1960s. I wonder why?

That said, I'd love to see a rebirth of Zap comics, perhaps in digitized form. No way you could make any money from such a thing. Still...

Speaking of Furry Freak Brothers, I loved Gilbert Shelton’s stories of opposing communist and fascist cockroach societies. Nobody could draw a sink full of congealed grease floating on dishwater quite like he did.

Crumb’s recent illustrated King James version of Genesis is amazing. And he plays it straight. I wonder if he will do more chapters? I have a fondness for his poster, A Short History of America. Until I did a Google Image search this morning, I didn’t realize that he’d drawn an epilogue of three more alternate future panels for the Whole Earth Review.

I'm one of those people who needn't "study it" my 16th year was spent between playing at either Fillmore and Avalon with my band or spending time in the Haight or Marin, going to high school and being managed by BBHC (Joplin) and Quicksilver's management team..and seeing it all go to shit around October of 1966 when mafia creeps and thugs and commerce rubbed all their hands together in one tremendous awakening of profit motive. By the real experiment had succeeded..the anti war movement was decapitated or defused by the Army's testing of drugs on the community.
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